LEMONS (more than just lemonade)

Lemons. Typically, if you eat out at a restaurant, you get a slice of lemon in your water. If you are like me, it is just one of those things and you don’t even think about it much.  I’ve been thinking a lot about lemons lately and of course, I wanted to tell you all about it, or rather, them.

Lemon juice raises the level of citrate in the body, which may help in fighting kidney stones. Note: other citrus does not have this effect. In fact, grapefruit juice has the opposite effect and should be avoided if you are prone to kidney stones.

Kidney stones form when urine in the kidneys becomes supersaturated with stone-forming salts, and when the urine doesn’t contain enough stone-preventing substances. One of these substances is citrate. For people prone to stones, doctors typically prescribe potassium citrate in pill or liquid form.  Lemon juice is full of natural citrate. When added to water, or when made into low-sugar lemonade, lemon juice increases the amount of citrate in the urine to levels known to inhibit kidney stones. Be sure to include some grated lemon peel to your lemon water / lemonade. It is important to be cautious with sugar since it can increase kidney stone risk.  I squeeze an entire lemon into my 32 oz. tumbler of water every morning and I toss the lemon into the tumbler as well after squeezing out the juice. It’s super easy to do this every morning.

Beyond the benefit for fighting kidney stones, lemons have other health benefits.  Lemons are a great source of Vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory agent.  For that reason along, lemons are worth adding to your diet.  But! Lemons have also been found to have two other compounds – a group of chemicals called limonoids and limonene, both of which have documented anti-cancer properties.

Limonene is found in the peel and has been shown in studies to be chemopreventive against mammary, liver, lung and UV-induced skin cancer and chemotherapeutic against mammary and pancreatic tumors.  A study from the University of Arizona concluded that when lemon peel is consumed with hot black tea, the risk of skin cancer is reduced by 30 percent. According to researchers, consumer 1 tablespoon a week of grated peel is all you need to make a significant difference. The limonoid in lemon, limonin, seems to be able to lower cholesterol.

The simple Lemon has so many health benefits. Lemons are easy to find year-round and it takes no time to add some to your water or hot tea. So why not add them to your bag of health tricks?  As always, prevention is the absolute best medicine.

STAY healthy. Be STRONG. Get AFTER It.

ZUCCHINI

Squash is plentiful right now and you may find yourself being gifted with loads of zucchini.  Local farmer’s markets will toss in extra in your bag when you aren’t looking.  You may be the victim of a hit and run: your neighbor hits up your doorstep with zucchini then runs.  What can you do with all that zucchini?  What are the health benefits?

1 medium squash has 33 calories, 2 grams of fiber, 2.4 grams of protein and provides the RDA of these vitamins and minerals:  Calcium 3%; Iron 3%; Vitamin C 58%; Vitamin A 7%; B6 15% and Magnesium 8%.  It also has a whopping 512 mg of potassium, which is great for keeping our blood pressure healthier.

How about reducing age-related macular degeneration?  Yep.  Zucchini has plenty of the carotenoids lutein & zeaxanthin which are powerhouses for eye health.  Manganese too, which aids in the production of collagen which is essential for wound healing and like Vitamin C, manganese is an antioxidant that protects against cellular damage from free radicals. Vitamin C, best known for protecting sailors against scurvy, is a water-soluble antioxidant that also helps our bodies metabolize cholesterol.  Squash in general has high water content which makes it a “high volume” food which means there is a LOT of good stuff for very few calories.

How can you add zucchini to your life?  Chop it up and add it to soup. Make a casserole with layered slices of zucchini, yellow squash, onion, green tomatoes and cheese.  Thinly slice it length-wise and use those slices instead of noodles in lasagna. Slice them in half, remove the “innards” and fill up the slices with marinara or meat sauce, sprinkle with cheese and bake.  Whip up a skillet of calabacitas.

Calabacitas is a traditional vegetable dish in New Mexico that my friend Carla introduced me to years ago. It is easy and delicious.  I always use a cast iron skillet.  Grab one and add a bit of olive oil and put the pan over medium heat; throw in some chopped zucchini along with some salt, pepper and garlic.  Stir it around a bit then add some fresh corn and some green chiles.  No recipe, it is a throw-it-together dish that takes just a couple of minutes to prepare.  Generally, I’d say 2 medium zucchini, 1 ear of corn, and half a can of diced green chiles.  Add to your taste; can’t really go wrong. Get out that skillet and whip up a batch.

STAY Healthy. Be STRONG. Get AFTER It.

The Power of Pineapple

Food is medicine, and it is delicious medicine.  We are indeed what we eat, and if we eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, we are giving our bodies premium fuel.

Let’s talk pineapple.  When it comes to produce, remember: Fresh is always best!  Frozen is the next best.

The fruit is made up of many individual berries that fuse together around a central core. Each pineapple scale is an individual berry.  Pineapple contains:

  • Bromelain – an enzyme that has anti-inflammatory properties
  • Vitamin C – lots of it!
  • Manganese – a mineral important to bone health 
  • Thiamin – a B vitamin that is involved in energy production

In 1493, explorer Christopher Columbus found pineapples on Guadeloupe Island in the Caribbean. The fruit is also native to southern Brazil and Paraguay. Historically, Hawaii was the world’s largest pineapple producer and source for U.S. pineapples. Today the largest producers include the Philippines, Brazil, and Costa Rica. Pass over sour-smelling or bruised pineapples. Fruit from Hawaii or Central America tends to be freshest.

To make your pineapple softer and juicier, keep it at room temperature for 1 or 2 days before cutting.  One cup of fresh pineapple chunks has about 82 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, is low in sodium.  Pineapple is a tropical fruit and tropical fruits are a higher in sugar.

Don’t stress over sugar that is in your produce, because that sugar comes with nutrients and fiber. Instead, be mindful about how it fits into your total intake.  For example, make sure you are eating a balance of foods, not a lot of any single food.

Last but not least: Pineapple is a fabulous meat tenderizer because the Bromelain is a protein-digesting enzyme.  Use pineapple juice in marinades for flavor and to tenderize.  Pineapple juice works very well as a marinade for jerky.

What are the benefits of adding some pineapple to your life?

  • Anti-Inflammatory benefits – especially cited as helpful with reducing osteoarthritis pain
  • Can reduce tumor growth
  • Blood clot reduction
  • Immune system support
  • Bone strength
  • Eye health
  • Aids digestion

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get After It!

 

Fiber for our Body & Brain

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Having just one of these conditions doesn’t mean you have metabolic syndrome. However, any of these conditions increase your risk of serious disease. Having more than one of these might increase your risk even more.  If you have metabolic syndrome or any of its components, aggressive lifestyle changes can delay or even prevent the development of serious health problems.  Daily exercise and changing up the types of carbohydrates that you eat have significant impact on these conditions.

Where to start?  Choose to eat more complex carbohydrates, that is, foods higher in fiber.  By eating more fiber-rich carbohydrates, you should be crowding out refined, processed carbohydrates.  Pay attention to the types of carbohydrates that you eat! Make sure you are choosing carbohydrates with fiber.  This is important. Focus on the TYPE of carbohydrates that you are eating.

Eating higher-fiber foods improve your health in many ways:

  • Controls your appetite
  • Gives you long-lasting energy
  • Helps you reach & maintain a healthy weight
  • Provides vitamins, minerals, antioxidants & phytonutrients
  • Provides balance for blood-sugar levels
  • Helps reduce blood-cholesterol levels
  • Helps reduce blood pressure
  • Promotes a healthy digestion
  • Enhances brain function

What are some higher fiber (2.5+ grams per serving) carbohydrates?1 cup of vegetables; 1 average size fruit; 1 oz. nuts/seeds; 1 cup legumes; 1 cup unbroken grains = 1 serving

VEGETABLES & FRUIT (fresh or frozen are the best options)

 Spinach, Collard Greens, Kale, Turnip Greens, Artichoke, Carrots, Broccoli, BrusselsSprouts, Cabbage, Onions, Sweet Potato, White Potato, Pumpkin, Apples, Blackberries, Pears, Blueberries, Raspberries, Avocado, Guavas, Kiwi, Dates, Figs, dried Figs, dried Plums, Oranges, Strawberries, Banana

 NUTS & SEEDS

 Almonds, Pistachios, Pecans, Walnuts, Flax seed (ground), Chia seed, Pumpkin seeds, Sunflower seeds

 LEGUMES (a class of vegetables that includes beans, peas & lentils; are a good plant-based protein source)

 Lentils, Lima Beans, Pigeon Peas, Pink Beans, Pinto Beans, Black Beas, White/Navy Beans, Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans, Kidney Beans, Black Eyed Peas, Split Peas, Green Peas, Peanuts

WHOLE GRAINS (unbroken grains that must be cooked before they can be eaten. Flour is an example of a broken grain as well as any other grain products that are not in their natural-whole state)

Old Fashioned/Rolled or Steel Cut Oats, Quinoa, Rice, Pearled Barley, PopcornWhole Grain, High Fiber Cereal with minimal ingredients:  Bran Flakes, Grape Nuts, Shredded Wheat with Bran

 By adding more of these foods into your diet and crowding out foods made with processed flour (which usually come with sugar and unhealthy fats) you are on the path of better health – now and in the future.   Don’t wait until you have a serious health condition to pay attention, do it now!   Prevention is the best medicine.  Food is Medicine.   When we eat better, we feel better.   Often, we don’t realize how great we can feel until we do – or the reverse of that:  how bad we feel until we don’t.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get After It.

Food vs. Treats

Definition of FOOD: any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth.

Definition of TREAT: an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure.

We don’t need treats every day, however we do need FOOD. Treats are the exception, not the routine. Americans have it backwards. We tend to eat too many treats, not enough FOOD. Cheetos are not FOOD, they are a TREAT.

My friend Denise loves the saying “You are not a dog, don’t reward yourself with food”.    That should actually be changed to: Don’t reward yourself with TREATS.

How many times have you said: I’ve been good so I’m going to eat “x” or haven’t had this in a while so I’m going to treat myself – I deserve a REWARD. No. You are not a dog. Stop it with the food rewards. Instead: if you want to eat it. Just eat it.  Eat it because you CHOOSE to eat it.

With that said, we all have trigger foods and foods we gravitate to; foods that we crave and want. Foods that we often know we shouldn’t eat and say we want to eat less of, but we think we can’t because we just “have to have them” and we Just. Can’t.  Stop.  I was 230+ pounds of walking bread carbs minus bones and vital organs. If it was bread, a cookie, a cake, a bar, a cracker I was eating it. That was all I wanted.  I’d grab and eat it without any desire or room for anything else.  Eating that way didn’t keep me full or satisfied, and I craved more of the same.   When I made the decision that I was FINALLY going to get a handle on my food and fitness, I took a hard look at what I was eating. I also took a look at the stressors in my life that were contributing to my stress eating.

I found an outlet for stress relief (EXERCISE) and I steadfastly worked on increasing protein rich foods in my diet.  Protein and healthy fats were my focus.  Quickly, I found that those foods satisfied me, kept me fuller longer and I felt better. I wasn’t as sluggish and I had more energy.  As I concentrated on getting in my protein, the refined   carbohydrates or EBLS as I like to call them (extraneous bread-like substances) took a backseat. I didn’t have room for them and I found that I didn’t crave them any longer.  I ended up crowding out the “EBLS” by crowding in more protein and fiber-rich carbohydrates and healthy fat.

My point is this. If there is a food or group of foods, you want to cut back on or stop entirely:  JUST DO IT. One step at a time. Be steadfast and stick with it for a few weeks, let your body do its thing and adjust. Don’t sabotage yourself with “I’ve been “good” so I will reward myself with just a bit of X (insert your trigger food)”.  Stick with it.  You WILL stop wanting it as much.  Once YOU are in control, then you can choose to have some if you want. You are in control, not your cravings.

Mindset switch.YOU are in control. You CHOOSE.  And! Remember to keep FOOD and TREATS in the proper perspective.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get After It.

 

Here it Comes Again. (& how to really start getting Healthier

It is a new year and those “lose weight in 3 weeks” diets are out in front of you in full force.  One I saw this week promised 14 pounds lost in 24 days by eating nothing but boiled eggs, vegetables, fruit and water.  Said diet hawker proclaimed that this combination would trigger fat burning and “detoxification”.  He/She/It left out the part about how that weight would be mostly water, stored glycogen and muscle; that this is a low calorie diet that would trigger weight loss not because of the magic combination but because it is low in calories; that the body doesn’t burn stored fat first when you subject it to a low calorie diet; that your body will down-regulate it’s metabolism; that the muscle you’d certainly lose would cause your body to need LESS energy/calories which means you will end up with a higher bodyfat % at the end of said diet and you will end up fatter when you stop said diet and eat something more; that your bone density will suffer; your skeletal muscle will suffer; your functional strength will suffer; your energy & joie de vivre will suffer; and you will deem yourself a “failure” when said diet fails you – AGAIN.

Losing fat is different than losing weight.  Our weight is water, muscle, bone, stored energy (glycogen), fat, undigested food and our hair. When we weigh ourselves, all that is getting calculated. Out of all that, the only thing I want to lose is the excess fat unless my hair is shaggy and I need a trim and my gastrointestinal tract will take care of that undigested food eventually.

I truly care about all of you or I wouldn’t be writing this, so forgive me when I say: I don’t care about how you physically look. Your beauty (your full package YOU) has nothing to do with how your body looks. I do care about how healthy you are now and for the rest of your life.  I wholeheartedly believe that if you have vibrant health and energy you WILL look awesome.  See how that works?  I also believe that if you focus only on how much you weigh and how quickly you think you can change your scale number that your health will suffer and you may not look or feel so awesome. But here is the thing: You will need to change up some things for the rest of your life, not just 24 days or 30 days or 120 days. Here is the other thing: those changes don’t need to be drastic, all at once and certainly don’t need to be ones that just don’t fit in your life.  Don’t do anything to lose weight that you won’t do for the rest of your life. Consistency with healthier food and exercise choices is what you need for the rest of your life, not random food restrictions and excessive exercise for a short period.

If you are reading this and thinking where do I start making these lifestyle changes –

Do this, consistently:

  • Drink more water every day.  Get yourself a 32-oz. insulated tumbler (stainless steel pretty much rocks!) and keep that tumbler with you. Take it with you in the car, to work, to the gym, keep it at your desk. Drink water with your meals.  Don’t leave home without it.  Aim to drink 2 of those a day.
    • Put a filter such as PUR on your faucet at home
    • If traveling, fill it up at a gas station using the “water” button @ the soda fountain. If asked (I’ve never been) – say I’m filling up with water – just filled up my fuel tank.
  • Eat a large salad with a variety of vegetables, some protein and healthy fat (olives, nuts, avocado, olive or avocado oil, egg yolk) every single day.   Make that salad large, filling, satisfying and delicious.
    • Salad is WAY more than iceberg or any other kind of lettuce. In fact, it should be. It can be a chopped salad or a slaw salad. Mix up your greens and vegetables. Throw in some fruit. Protein. Healthy fat.
    • Be mindful of what you use for dressing. The purpose is to dress your salad, not drown it.  Read labels. Better yet, make your own. Consider using cottage cheese to dress it (if you like cottage cheese).  Consider a dollop of olive oil or avocado oil mayo with a bit of sea salt.  Consider a squeeze of citrus and some olive oil.  Dress it.
  •  Get 30 minutes of moderately vigorous exercise each day.  Take a walk. Ride your bike. Dance & do bodyweight exercises to music – standing or sitting.  Jump on a mini trampoline. Walk around Lowe’s warehouse. Play tennis. Rake your leaves. Rake your neighbor’s leaves.
    • Turn off the TV, get off the couch.
    • Go outside and play basketball with your children
    • After 30 minutes – you will feel great! Our bodies are not meant to be sedentary.

Work on those new habits.  Do them consistently.   Once those habits are established, then add something else.  BAM!

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG. Get After It!